Walking home alone: a manifesto for preventing rape

Content note: this post discusses rape and victim blaming

It’s “common sense” which is still trotted out repeatedly that to “stay safe” (meaning: don’t get yourself raped), women shouldn’t walk home alone. It’s the sort of thing that I consider a dead horse, and then I see it in the wild yet again because patriarchy still hasn’t got bored of pointing blame at survivors. The latest in this very long and very tedious string comes from Essex Police, who have launched a campaign under the banner of safety.

It’s victim blaming, plain and simple, telling women not to walk home alone.

Defenders of the “don’t walk home alone” position will cry out that it’s a safety precaution, and therefore isn’t victim blaming. Thing is, it’s bollocks that it’s a safety precaution, because it could actually expose us to further danger.

If you want a safety precaution, here’s one: walk home alone. 

Your rapist is more likely to be the male friend or acquaintance who kindly offers to walk you home than he is to be some random stranger in an alley.

In four out of five rapes, the perpetrator is already known to the survivor.

If a man offers to see you home safely, say no. Kick him in the nuts, pepper spray his eyes, and run as fast as you can to get away from him. Statistically speaking, if you’re going to get raped following a night out, it is four times as likely it’ll be the guy who wants to escort you than someone you don’t know.

There’s a safety precaution right there, and it’s rooted in stats, unlike the repeated assertions to go home accompanied by someone. Walk home alone.

Of course, this safety precaution is, at the end of the day, as nonsensical as any exhortation to get yourself escorted home, because it’s still moving the responsibility for rape prevention away from where it lies: with the rapist. What’s really needed is a mass structural change, demolishing the culture that facilitates rapists. But until then, when the concern trolls bleat about “safety precautions”, remind them who the rapist is truly likely to be.

Please stop asking me to donate blood. They won’t let me.

Content note: this post discusses structural homophobia

I’m an ideal blood donor. I have a blood type which is fairly common, and can be received by 83% of recipients. I don’t tend to get faint, and I have no qualms about needles. I’m not on any medications. I’m Cypriot, which is a useful ethnic group to belong to in terms of blood donation, because people from Cyprus are more likely to live with a genetic disease called thalassaemia which requires regular blood transfusions, and if you’re receiving regular blood transfusions you need more closely matched blood–there are more antibodies in blood than the simple ABO +/- blood types, which don’t matter in a one-off transfusion, but do for frequent transfusions; people from similar ethnic backgrounds are more likely to have them. I have my little bronze card from my regular donating, 3-4 times a year.

But I haven’t been able to give blood recently. According to regulations, my blood is tainted with gay. I have had sex with men who have sex with men. One of my current partners is a man who has sex with men. Basically, I need to stop boning my partner for a year if I’m to give blood again, a position which is pretty damn undesirable because we have really good sex, and the sex we have is pretty much of no concern to the blood services.

For the record, unlike a lot of straight people who are allowed to give blood, my partner and I practice safer sex–together and with others–to the point of paranoia. Unlike a lot of straight people who are allowed to give blood, my partner and I are aware of our status for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis: hell, we’re actually vaccinated against hepatitis A and B. Both of us were toddlers during the epidemic, and became sexually active long after it was a thing.

Yet the blood service don’t want my blood (or his).

It would be easier to be under the exclusion criteria did I not believe in how important it is to donate blood if you can. And I can, for every reason except for structural homophobia leading to bans based on who I fancy and who I love. I was perfectly eligible to give blood during a particularly dark time when I was having all manner of unsafe sex with very promiscuous men who were heterosexual (as far as I was aware). The guidelines for eligibility for blood donation are discriminatory.

I don’t have it in me to hate the blood service for these discriminatory rules though, to shout and scream at them like I usually do with organisations which discriminate against queer folk.

When I see ads–and I see a lot of ads–I just feel a stab of guilt that I can’t help out, doing something little that takes half an hour, could save a life and definitely leads to free coffee and biscuits.Because of shitty algorithm-ing, social media targeted ads like to tell me to give blood: sorry for fucking up your comms plan, NHSBT, but I can’t because you don’t want my blood. 

I realise that this is probably a futile cry, given my followerbase, but on the off chance you are healthy and not on meds, are not a current or former sex worker, have not been to Africa, and are neither a man who has sex with men, nor a person who has ever had sex with one, then go and give blood. It really is important. It really is important, and they really need to change the regulations so those of us who want to donate, can.

They take a calculated risk with heteros, so why not expand the calculated risk?

It’s time to end blanket banning, and accept that, like our blood types being more complex than you might think, there’s a lot more nuance than just queers carry bad blood.

SASS: I think you’re meant to fuck up your cunt with it.

It’s 2015, and I am fucking tired as shit of two things:

  1. Products which are designed to make your nethers less gross
  2. Twee fucking euphemisms while marketing such things

Lucky for me, today I learned of a product which does both of these things: SASS Intimate Skincare. A takedown of a lot of the issues has been posted by Jade Moulds (warning: contains cissexist language: of course, vaginas are not just the domain of women, although this product has clearly been marketed at cis women; I wish the author had acknowledged this): namely that this product increases shame surrounding vaginas, and that it’s not very good for you to be rubbing scented soaps into a mucous membrane.

To add to the critique of how bad it is for you to be putting scented soaps on your cunt, I’d like to add that a lot of SASS’s marketing focuses on “pH balance”. This is obvious marketing jargon: the term is bandied about with basically anything you put on your skin anyway, and I wonder if by applying this pseudoscientific twaddle to products you whack on your cunt it’s trying to imply that maybe it won’t throw things out of kilter so much as other products which you’re meant to de-gross your minge with. Let’s pretend for a second that this is actually true: that SASS Intimate Skincare products are the exact same pH as your vagina, and this will definitely negate all of the problems chemicals making contact with a very sensitive body part could cause. If that’s true, to what point of the cycle is SASS Intimate Skincare pH balanced? For most of the month, the vagina is about as acidic as orange juice, but during periods, it becomes closer to neutral as the acidic natural juices mix with the pretty-much-neutral blood. And for whom is it pH balanced? There’s some natural variance, with the off-period pH being somewhere between 3.5 and 4.5, depending on the individual.

The acidity of the vagina is useful, because it kills bacteria. It’s also fucking badass, and why sometimes it looks like you’ve bleached your black knickers–you have.

I looked at the SASS website to find out, but I couldn’t, because everything is completely fucking vague. The takedown I posted earlier is equally annoyed by the vagueness of language used, but I couldn’t even necessarily work out what body parts some of the products were for. The term “intimate use” and “the area” is used a lot on the site, and I am 95% sure it doesn’t always refer to the same place. Like, seriously, these people sell shaving gels as well as things to be used “in and around the area”. Maybe I’m weird as is every cunt I’ve ever had the joy of putting my face in, but as far as I’m aware the part that you shave and the part that’s “in” are completely different.

One of the products is so vaguely-described I have literally no idea where you’re meant to put it: the Intimate Protection Barrier Cream. During exercise, it’s meant to protect… something. Apparently “intense activity can take its toll on your intimate area” and it will “help reduce friction” during intense physical activity. Er, what? I’m genuinely struggling to work out what this does. Is it for stopping your upper thighs rubbing together? Is it for people who live in towns where all exercise gear is made of sandpaper glued right to your flaps? What sort of exercise do they mean?

Alas, I have neither the money, nor the disregard for my own vaginal wellbeing, to test this stuff out. It’s pricey, and I don’t want bacterial vaginosis, thank you very much. I would also be enormously alarmed if my cunt started smelling like anything other than my cunt: it would be like that fancy culinary trope where you cook something that looks like something but tastes like something else, and it’s kind of weird and personally I really don’t like having food expectations violated and it always makes me enjoy it less and–

Cunts are the perfect anarchist. If you leave them to it, they tend to get along just fine, cleaning up after themselves and doing their thing. This is exactly why we don’t need yet more expensive products profiting off of a manufactured need for them not to just do what they do.

 

 

Occupy Sussex tried to cover up organising with rape apologists, pass it on

Content warning: this post discusses rape apologism

If you could take two minutes out of your cathartic time laughing at the fact David Cameron fucked a pig, that’d be peachy. This is important but it won’t take long.

Occupy Sussex are an anti-austerity student movement, and until recently, one of the few organisations with the word “Occupy” in the title I’ve had any time for. They seemed to be making a genuine effort to buck the trend of the dreadful misogynistic stuff groups with the word “Occupy” in the title generally get up to, by passing three motions against pro-rape party the SWP, and openly refusing to organise with the paste-tabled rape apologists. They were also pretty good on safer spaces.

Not any more, it seems. Occupy Sussex have invited the SWSS (the SWP’s student group) to a Free Education meeting tonight. According to an anonymous source who is a survivor,

“Some people essentially decided to run the campaign and took the liberty of inviting the SWP members. This wasn’t announced to anyone and three previous votes had banned the SWP, so survivors would have went in to the room and been faced with the SWP without any warning. Someone pointed out how devastating that would be for survivors but their argument was essentially that there are survivors on both sides, others in the campaign got hurt too, and people were uncomfortable with banning. Ultimately they prioritise having more members over having a safe space. After everything the campaign have dragged survivors through over the past two years, to just disregard that hurt and the three votes, they have given survivors the option of either working with rape apologists, or leaving.”

The Occupy Sussex Twitter account has been taken over by someone who protests the decision, and locked out those who think it’s perfectly fine to invite those who welcome rapists to meetings, despite the consensus being against that.

There’s two key points to why the decision to invite the SWP to Occupy Sussex’s meeting is very bad, which I’ll just spell out quickly:

  1. The SWP are rape apologist scum who shouldn’t be invited anywhere.
  2. Occupy Sussex literally democratically passed motions against inviting these fucking rape apologist scum to anything.

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There is only one survivor willing to defend the decision to invite the SWP, and surprise surprise, she’s SWP. This is a pretty classic tactic: just because one survivor is comfortable organising with the SWP doesn’t mean everybody is. In fact, given Occupy Sussex’s previous track record on survivor-led motions against the SWP, it looks like the general consensus is that these rape apologists should fuck off.

It’s disappointing to see some individuals within Occupy Sussex trying to reverse the consensus on organising with rape apologists, and unfortunately it will lead to a smaller movement, not a bigger one. Yes, they’ll have opened up to crusty trots selling newspapers, but they’ll have lost the support of a lot of people whose significance they have probably underestimated: women and survivors.

The individuals in Occupy Sussex who want to invite a pro-rape party into the fold would rather this remained quiet. They were hoping their spitting in the faces of women and survivors would go unnoticed, uncommented upon. It shouldn’t. It mustn’t. This is an enormous fuckup which can be fixed–all they need to do is prioritise the will of survivors against the desire to include rape apologists.

And now back to your regularly-scheduled giggling at the fact the Prime Minister fucked a dead pig. I don’t think my pun got nearly enough love.

Things I read this fortnight that I found interesting

Hi everyone. First of all, let me say I intend to read a bunch of Jackie Collins novels in the near future. Some may scoff, but she was a truly influential novelist whose work will likely be dismissed by snobs. Anyway, here’s some things I read this fortnight that I enjoyed and found interesting.

Detained Voices– People held in immigration detention centres share their experiences, and update on protests they are holding.

Trending Homonationalism (Natalie Kouri-Towe)- This is a very good primer on the concept of homonationalism.

In Praise of the Radical and Unapologetic Nicki Minaj (Chaedria Labouvier)- This is the sort of thing you cheer as you read it.

Why I love wearing hijab (Ruqaiya Haris)- The hijab can be a gateway to freedom, and this awesome woman explains why.

One lawyer’s crusade to defend extreme pornography (Edward Docx)- Excellent feature on lawyer Myles Jackman, who focuses on the absurdities of obscenity law.

Why girls don’t get diagnosed with autism (Sarah Thomasin)- A short examination of the double standards in autism diagnoses.

Bodies of Water (Jenna Braeger)- This is a painful read on people drowning in the Mediterranean. Perhaps we should drop the “get in the sea” meme on the light of that which seems so obvious now.

‘No Blacks’ Is Not a Sexual Preference. It’s Racism (Samantha Allen)- Why “just a preference” isn’t just a preference.

Signs and Sensibility (Chris Marshall)- A brief history of London’s road signage, this is nerdy but really fucking interesting.

Bias in the Work Capability Assessment: Analysis of Results of 1,000,000 WCAs (Wordthings of Jon)- Using statistical analysis beyond anything the government release, there’s a lot of bias against the poorest, most disabled people.

I Am an ObGyn Resident Who Entered My Field Specifically to Perform Safe Abortion Services — These Are My Reasons Why (Caroline Payne)- I’m glad doctors like this exist.

How can she leave if she has nowhere to go? Housing and domestic violence (Sisters Uncut)- How the government force women to remain with their abusers.

Give Your Money To Women: The End Game of Capitalism (Lauren Chief Elk-Young Bear)- An interview with some of the originators of this movement, and its significance.

I Said No When A Man Asked Me To Smile, So He Physically Made Me (Juliet Bennet Rylah)- Why a lot of us find the phrase “smile, love” chills us to the bone.

Snapping Back, Slowing Down: The feminist think piece industrial complex (Chanelle Adams)- An excellent critique of how feminism is done.

Men being deceived by makeup [comics] (Megan Nicole Dong)- These made me laugh a lot.

And finally, here’s what the Bible would look like if it used the word “problematic” instead of “wicked”.

Enjoying these link round-ups, which I curate entirely by hand? Please consider becoming a patron so I can keep on doing what I’m doing. 

Fanny talk with the Scarlet Ladies

As you may know from the little button on the sidebar, I’ve recently got involved with Scarlet Ladies, a new initiative encouraging women to be more open about sex. On Thursday, I was part of a panel where we discussed our quims.

Along with founding members Sarah and Janette, I joined burlesque performer Effie Vescent and orgasmic meditation instructor Claudia from TurnOn Britain in opening up a discussion of our nethers to a small intimate group in a pub. Occasionally, a member of staff would wander through looking mildly horrified, because this is not what we’re meant to do. 

I first discovered the importance of talking very frankly about my cunt when I discovered the power of the Dear Nadine Dorries project. For those of you who don’t remember the halcyon days of 2011, this was when me and a bunch of other people (note: not just women) wrote crass letters to an anti-choice Tory MP in the hope of sating her desire to intrude on our uteruses. Her bill failed, and she whined about receiving letters describing bodily functions in graphic detail in Parliament, so technically, I might have had the most famous minge in the room since mine is recorded in Hansard. The thing the Dear Nadine Dorries project taught me most of all was the thirst to be able to talk openly about everything your cunt does: the good, the bad, and the downright queefingly disgusting.

With that in mind, I told a couple of stories pertaining to how I’d thought I wasn’t normal, but it turned out I was. I told the story of when I was 15 and I thought I’d wanked myself incontinent because I didn’t even know that squirting was A Thing. I told of my wonky flaps–which I describe as looking like the Before and After photos in a labiaplasty advert–and how I didn’t know that the wonkiness wasn’t some terrifying weird mutation until I started muff-diving. This was a natural segue into tale of when I wounded my cunt in a narrowboating accident, and just briefly, my flaps were the same size because of the swelling.

Later in the evening, I became part of a competition: to identify what my tattoo was.

clit

Yes, that’s an anatomically correct, roughly life-sized clitoris, and unfortunately, nobody could recognise it. It’s hardly surprising; medical science didn’t recognise it until the nineties, or map it properly until 2009. And that’s part of the reason I have that tattoo, as a symbol of the abject failures of scientific disciplines in identifying something that has been right there all along: they’re fucking crap at listening to experience and believing in it.

The rest of the panel–and indeed the audience–had had radically different experiences to me. Most of the group, unless they’re queer like me and Effie, or their job involves quite a lot of cunt-based workshops, like Claudia, had never really seen another person’s cunt in the flesh, and this led to a resulting level of mystery. The mystery is deepened further in that it’s a pretty difficult body part to even get a good look at yourself. One of the guests, a Hindi speaker, contributed that there isn’t even a word for “vagina” in Hindi.

So talking about it is empowering in its way. The floodgates opened, and we began to talk, honestly and openly, about our experiences and our feelings. We even drew ours: there’s a photo of our artistic forays over on Scarlet Ladies’ write-up.

Experiences of living a cunt are highly diverse, and the Scarlet Ladies discussion was something I felt was much needed, although I wish it had been slightly more diverse. As far as I could tell, everybody was cis, and it would be nice to open up such discussions to a less cis audience.

Aside from that caveat, I had a thoroughly wonderful time. It really is a delight being in a room full of people and able to talk about such things with the assurance that nobody will go “eww”.

I love you, please give me money

Update: I am now accepting paypal donations!

Hi everybody. Regular followers will know that my financial situation hasn’t been brilliant of late, and in terms of sustainability it’s just got a mite worse, because I lost one of my two jobs. I can survive on what I’m making, but I can’t really live.

If you’ve read this blog at all, you’ll probably know how many bridges I’ve burned by criticising publications for their awful business models, and hurting the feelings of some of their pet bigots. I regret nothing, but unfortunately this means I can’t do the standard thing of farting out any old thinkpiece and getting paid for it. I’m an independent blogger, and it looks like it’s going to stay that way.

This blog is a labour of love, and I will continue writing it for as long as I can, because it means a hell of a lot to me to have a space to vent my thoughts and feelings. However, I’ve noticed something in myself over the last year or so, and that’s that I just haven’t had the time and space for it that I previously have, because I’ve been working myself to the bone and basically been devoting far too much time and energy to just existing. I feel like financial support for my writing would help with both the practical and emotional barriers to my being able to even think. 

I can’t offer you anything in return for your money, except the knowledge that you are helping me and that means the world to me. I’ve set up a liberapay page, where you can support me. If you fancy donating to me regularly, that’s probably the easiest way of doing it. I’ve explained a little more fully what your money could help me do.

Anyway, basically, please please help me with my finances, and help me get better–as a writer and a person. Instead of patronising me in the comments, patronise me in a constructive way!

Become a patron!